With thanks to Women on Writing for their publication of this piece!
Abbie Rose Stone, the main character in my forthcoming novel, Hard Cider, is a serious knitter. She knits to express her creativity. She knits to spend contemplative time sorting out her life. She knits in the companionship of other women who share her interest. Two different knit shops provide prominent settings in the book. What starts as a minor plot element in Hard Cider, ends up becoming more important throughout the novel. Knitting and writing have a creative connect for me.
Full disclosure— my personal creative time is spent not only in the written word, but also in various fiber arts- knitting, sewing, quilting, and embroidery. And so I imbue my characters with interest in these arts. In Hard Cider, the kinship among women who love to knit leads Abbie to connect with another character long before she understands the shocking reality that will connect them forever. Feeling that kinship to other fiber artists lends an important authenticity to this part of the story and a counterpoint to other plot threads.
And then there is the metaphor of the knitting… the stitching together. To me, the relatedness of fashioning a garment bears a strong creative resemblance to the writing process. It is most helpful to have a sense of where the project is going. Choosing a pattern, finding yarn and colors that work with the desired end product have their objective correlative in choosing a genre, a story structure, finding the right narrative voice, and developing characters. In both knitting and writing projects, there will be unanticipated changes as the piece emerges, discouraging mistakes, “ripping out,” and occasional wishes to abandon the project altogether. There are constant choices as to how perfect the project has to be, and worries as to how it will be received by the desired recipients. Most of all, each of these arts pulls something elemental, something important from inside me a
s a creative person and allows me to share the results with others— to give something of myself that I have made. The thrill is similar.
I consider myself first and foremost a writer when it comes to my own definition of “what I do.” But I deeply value my creative experience as a fiber artist. When I come across fiber art themes or even just a character who knits in a novel, I’m immediately drawn closer to that character or plot thread. I will never forget the sinister knitting scene at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. It still makes me shudder to imagine the stitches marking each guillotine execution. More akin to my own experience, in Kate Jacobs’ Friday Night Knitting Club, and Debbie Macomber’s The Shop on Blossom Street, the authors demonstrate the richness of women supporting each other through their gathering to create with their hands, regardless of the chaos going on elsewhere in their lives. I look forward to providing that little extra enjoyment to readers of Hard Cider.